Rush Limbaugh and the 'Intellectual Leader' Trap

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Mar 04, 2009 11:22 AM
While several Republican leaders were tripped-up when asked if Rush Limbaugh was the "leader of the Republican Party," the qualifier "intellectual" has often been added to the question. This, of course, is a trap.

The problem is that people naturally associate the term "intellectual" with pointy-headed academic types. Rush Limbaugh obviously doesn't fit the stuffy professorial stereotype -- and it would be laughable to pretend that he does.

This does not mean he isn't intelligent or worldly. Ronald Reagan was not an "intellectual" in the way that Buckley, Hayek, or Friedman were -- but he was deeply interested in, and knowledgeable of, conservative philosophy. And he possessed something else that is arguably rarer: Leadership and communications ability. He was able to eloquently articulate a conservative vision.

In this manner, Rush is similar to Reagan.

Of course, what I just explained is difficult to express in a 10-second cable TV sound bite. As such, when asked if Rush Limbaugh is the "intellectual leader of the Republican Party" conservative talking heads are essentially faced with a lose/lose proposition: Either appear to criticize Limbaugh -- or ascribe to him attributes which are not entirely appropriate...

The framing of this question is not accidental...